When I first started painting twelve years ago, my process was very traditional. A photograph of my subject was taken and scaled up to fit to a sheet of paper. The image was then put on a light table and using tracing paper I would attempt to draw out all the edges and major changes of value. The traced version was then folder width and length wise multiple times to create a grid of lines. The canvas was then divided into a comparable grid. At that point, the gridded “value lines” image from the tracing paper would be drawn onto the canvas. (The grid is used to make sure proportions are correct by visually comparing how much of a piece of the image is in a specific grid square.)
Thanks to new technologies, this entire process has been simplified and digitized. Instead of needing to trace, grid and find the contrasting highlights and shadows of an image with bare eyes, Photoshop can do it almost all for me. I used to print out dozens of images, but thanks to compact tablets I don’t print any! Saving me tons of time, ink, paper and ultimately money.
Now, each painting session, I plug in my tablet, set it to not auto-off, cover the screen in disposable plastic wrap to protect it from paint-covered fingers and begin! With just a flick, I can zoom in on a particular section of the image, switch to the grid view, high contrast or black & white. My last painting of whiskey bottles, which took almost a year to complete, would have normally taken dozens of printed photos for each section of detail. This time, I didn’t have to print one!
Not only has the my tablet device done wonders for my process of traditional canvas painting, I’ve started using it as a replacement drawing pad thanks to Autodesks’ SketchBook Pro. I’m a huge fan of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School. There are branches all over the country, and I’m thankful to have one here in Minneapolis. The premise is pretty simple: A figure drawing class, at a bar, with burlesque dancers as models. The dancers do a quick show, then stop and strike poses for the art students to draw. Themes are given each session and you can win prizes for drawing the best representation of the days themes. (I actually won a t-shirt my first visit for drawing the model in a post apocalyptic setting.)
I stopped bringing my paper sketch book about a year ago in favor of just my tablet device. The breadth of artist tools that the tablet allows me to mimic at a moments notice makes for an incredible drawing experience. As you can see from my images below, I can go from air brushes, crayon, pencils or fountain pens quickly and easily. Did I make a mistake? No problem, I can quickly erase it, or select specific areas to rotate or resize. The inclusion of layers and blend modes allows me to quickly experiment and revert back changes if I don’t like them.
The only real challenge with the current available tablets is a lack of pressure sensitivity, but after a few hours of practice, I learned to quickly adjust the value with my left hand while drawing with a stylus in my right. I am ecstatic to hear that Samsung is prototyping true pressure sensitive stylus tablets and I cannot wait to get my hands on one!